Ottawa's Downtown "SoPa" Rebrand Is More 'South Park' Than "South of Parliament"

BY Calum SlingerlandPublished Jan 25, 2023

To say nothing of the kitschy quests for cultural relevance other Canadian city centres have undertaken, Ottawa's latest move to make itself a buzzworthy destination involves a proposition many South Park viewers feel is taken straight from the minds of Trey Parker and Matt Stone.

In an effort to change perception of the nation's capital as a "frozen civil service outpost" or "the city that fun forgot," a group of business owners and restaurateurs have floated the nickname "SoPa" for an area of downtown Ottawa.

"SoPa" demarcates an area directly south of Parliament Hill — a title inspired by American locales like the "Triangle Below Canal Street," or "South of Houston Street."

"I think 'SoPa,' the south of Parliament area, is just a catchy nickname," Scott May, owner of Bar Robo in Queen Street Fare, told CTV News Ottawa. "We borrowed heavily from Tribeca and SoHo."

When it comes to scoring "cool points," we'll fully admit that "SoPa" sounds much more alluring than something like "the Danny" — the name a local business association attempted to slap on a stretch of Toronto's Danforth Avenue back in 2017 that locals wasted little time piling on. However, the name sounds similar to that of a revitalization effort in a 2015 episode of South Park.

In Season 19 of Parker and Stone's comedy, third episode "The City Part of Town" finds the residents of South Park convincing Whole Foods to build a store in town, pending a thorough inspection from the company. In an effort to woo Whole Foods inspectors, the town establishes "SoDoSoPa" ("South of Downtown South Park"), a glittering, gentrified district built around Kenny's dilapidated home.

The episode features a series of commercials for "SoDoSoPa" shot in live-action, which speak to the "rustic charm of a mixed-income crowd" and "helping the local economy" through purchase of a condo or patronage of the "independent merchants and neat cafes" in their amusing skewering of real-world development and branding efforts.

While those behind "SoPa" haven't sprung for flashy ads at this point, we should mention that a launch party for the new district promises "small bites" and "hot jazz" for $81.21. Here's hoping the latter is true — have you ever been to Ottawa in February before?

Last year, Parker and Stone reunited Rush's surviving members to celebrate a milestone South Park anniversary, while it was also reported they were at work on a comedy film with Kendrick Lamar.

Latest Coverage